Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Third of June

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
Anybody who remembers the summer and fall of 1967, knows that Bobbie Gentry's song, "Ode to Billie Joe," was a humongous hit—and this was before YouTube. The lyrics begin:
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hayAnd at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
Dinner, as those of us from the south know, is the noon meal. And this is where I find fault with the "balin' hay" part of the lyrics—hay has to be raked before it's baled. Brother got the hay raked AND baled before noon? Here's some of our 20 acres of hay that was cut last Wednesday. It cured out on Thursday and Friday.


On Saturday, around 9 AM when the cut hay was dry enough, my husband started raking. It took him 5 hours to rake the 20 acres. Around noon, his partner started baling the hay my husband had already raked.  

In the song, who raked it while brother went behind and baled? Daddy is plowing, mama is cooking, sister is chopping cotton—it's a mystery. What time did brother rake it? Granted it's a dusty day, but there'd likely be some dew on the grass in the morning that the sun would have to burn off before he started? He probably got started around 9 AM. Even if he had only 10 acres and a good tractor, he'd be raking for 2 and a half hours. Then he'd have to unhook the rake and attach the baler. Before he even started baling, it would be time for dinner.

I think the line should be this:
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was rakin' hay
That would be a lot more logical. For those who weren't around in 1967, here's a video of Bobbie Gentry singing her mega-hit:


Brother's hay would be square bales, so someone would have had to pick them up and get them under cover before it rained. (Again—who? Picking up square bales is labor-intensive and requires someone to drive the truck, someone to throw the bales onto the bed, and someone to stack them as they're thrown on. Why didn't daddy and sister postpone what they were doing to help?)

We've been making round bales for years, but I don't remember any round bales in the '60s. Even as late as the mid-80s, we made square bales. I don't remember round bales until sometime in the '90s. Round bales are so much easier—they can stay out in the field until picking them up—with a spear on the tractor—is convenient. They shed water, so getting rained on isn't a problem. Here are a few of our bales from Saturday's baling:


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